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CNN NEWSROOM

Debate on Gun Control Continues After Florida Shooting; Possibility of Talks Between U.S. and North Korea; Unstoppable Shelling in Eastern Ghouta Killed More Civilians; Boko Haram Raided School and Took 100 Girls; Power Play in China; Beijing 2022; Pyeongchang 2018. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Gun policy takes center stage in Washington as the National Rifle Association and President Trump seem to differ on what should happen next.

The North Korean team has packed up and going home. We will go live to South Korea for more on whether the end of the Winter Olympics the finale for diplomacy.

And with those Olympics all wrap up the attention now turns to the Winter Games. We're live in Beijing where preparations are already underway.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. This is CNN Newsroom.

The Olympic diplomacy achieved with North Korea during the Winter Games is now being tested. South Korea announced on Sunday the North is willing to hold talks with the United States, but there is a major sticking point. The White House says any dialogue must resolve in North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.

And we're now learning the South Korean President Moon Jae-in is calling on the U.S. to, quote, "lower the threshold to talk with North Korea."

Meanwhile, demonstrators in Seoul are protesting South Korea's diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang but that has not stopped North Korean delegates from agreeing to continue talks with the South even after the Olympics.

And our Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Pyeongchang. Interesting we're hearing now from the South Korean leader lower the threshold here, so presumably is not to talk about getting rid of the North Korean nuclear weapons. PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in really has the most incredible balancing acts to maneuver at this point. He has managed to bring North Korea to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, he's managed to have this both in diplomacy, the delegation sitting down Kim Jong-un's sister sitting down with him and talking, and North Korea effectively saying that they are willing to the United States.

And then on the other side you have the United States maintaining its policy of wanting to make sure the denuclearization is at the top of the agenda when it comes to those talks. But the South Korean president is trying to say let's lower the threshold, let's at least sit down and talk. Something that he said was meeting with China's vice premier who, Liu Yandong actually welcome that and welcome what South Korea has managed to achieve so far.

But of course, the question is what happens when the athletes go home after the Paralympics which finish on March 18, there will be U.S.- South Korean military drills which every year anger Pyeongyang.

So it's difficult to see where the momentum is going to be but certainly that's something South Korea needs to work on. As for the United States Ivanka Trump has just left South Korea this Monday morning, local time and she did talk a little bit about North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: We are 50 miles away from North Korea so affirming the U.S. position and our joining position of maximum pressure with our South Korean partners is very important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: And also the White House response to North Korea telling the South Korean president that they were willing to the United States, quote, "We will see if Pyeongyang's message today that it is willing to hold talks represent the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the U.S. and the worked must continue to make clear North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are a dead end."

So, certainly the Trump administration trying to hammer home the point that there will still be sanctions and pressure until North Korea is willing to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons, something that most people do not expect the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to do willingly. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Paula Hancocks joining us there live from Pyeongchang.

[03:05:03] Well, there is outrage on multiple fronts after the latest school shooting in the United States. It has renewed the gun control debate with some rare bipartisan agreement. It's also resulted in demands that someone be held responsible for missing so many warning signs about the gunman who killed 17 people. An armed deputy stayed outside the school even as the gunman fired on

students inside. And the Broward County sheriff's office is acknowledging it had received 23 calls about the shooter or his family in the last decade. Well, now dozens of Florida lawmakers want the Broward County sheriff suspended. The sheriff spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: I will only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing?

ISRAEL: You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going in to a -- these deputies received the training they needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And Martin Savidge has more now from Parkland, Florida.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even as the chorus of voices demanding that Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel either step down or the governor the state of Florida fire him, there seems to be only defiance coming from the sheriff himself. He has said that he definitely has no intention of resigning, and he also says that all of this is now being driven by politics.

He points out the fact that of course the governor is republican, and most of the lawmakers so far that have come forward demanding that the governor remove Israel are also republican lawmakers. The sheriff himself is a democrat.

But here in the community where this tragedy played out, it is not about partisan politics. It's about something much more simpler and even easier to understand. It's about personal pain. It's about the loss that they have suffered.

And it's about almost the day to day revelations that seem to imply that the Broward County sheriff's office either failed to see serious warning signs coming from the alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, that one of their deputies failed to intervene when the shooting was taking place, and that there were other deputies that failed to rush in the in the immediate aftermath.

As parent who has lost a child, as a community that has lost so much in all of this, the anger has jut reached a breaking point, and they believe the sheriff is directly responsible. He is the head of the department.

Meanwhile, the governor of Florida is still pushing forward with his plans to bring about change and to improve security at the schools within the state. There is one point, though, in which he disagrees with the President of the United States. President Trump has come out and said he thinks it's a good idea that

some teachers and high schools should be trained and armed with side arms. Governor Scott does not agree with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I disagree with him. I believe you've got to focus on people that are well-trained, law enforcement that are trained to do this. I want to make sure that we have significant law enforcement presence on top of hardening the schools, metal detectors and bulletproof glass, better perimeter fencing, all these things.

And the other thing is I want to give our sheriff's department in each county the authority to do, create the program on a per school basis that the parents can feel comfortable that their child is going to is a safe school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, the investigation into the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School is continuing. It is currently being handled by the Broward County sheriff's department. But now the Florida department of law enforcement has been called in by the governor to investigate the sheriff's department as to how they responded on that terrible day.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Parkland, Florida.

CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump told governors at the White House this weekend that school safety is a top priority. And he said stopping school shootings would lead the agenda in their meetings later Monday.

The president has also said he favors raising the age limit from 18 to 21 to buy rifles. The NRA rejects that proposal, but a spokeswoman did try to soften the disagreement with Mr. Trump. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to raise that minimum wage. Will the NRA back that?

DANA LOESCH, SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Well, the NRA has made their position incredibly clear. The five million members of the NRA have made their position incredibly clear. And I do want to caution people.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a no?

LOESCH: Well, I do want to caution people because I know people are trying to find daylight between President Trump and five million law- abiding gun owners, and law law-abiding gun owners all across the United States. These are just things he is discussing right now. I think as president it is great he had all these individuals all of

these constituents come into the White House. He had this listening session. He is really looking for solutions. He wanted to hear what they had to say, and that's what he is doing. So far nothing has been proposed yet. The NRA has made their position clear.

[03:10:07]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the position is you do not want to raise the age.

LOESCH: That's what the NRA came out and said. That's correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: One other point President Trump has made is that it should be left up to the states to decide whether to arm teachers. It's the latest twist to the controversial suggestion he made following the Florida school shooting. His daughter Ivanka Trump was asked about it on NBC. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a mom of three young children. Do you believe that arming teachers would make children safer?

TRUMP: To be honest, I don't know. Obviously, there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school. But I think there is no one solution to creating safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you advising your dad on this? You advise him on other topics.

TRUMP: I think having a teacher who is armed who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it's an idea that needs to be discussed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And for more on the gun control debate, Kate Andrews is a U.S. political columnist for the City A.M. newspaper, and she joins us now live from London. Good to see you.

KATE ANDREWS, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, CITY AM: Good morning.

CHURCH: So the president is pushing this idea of arming teachers, something the NRA also supports. But many critics suggest it is a flawed suggestion. How likely is it that we will see state governors when they meet officially Monday seriously consider this idea?

ANDREWS: Well, I think you might see some governors endorse it. But I happen to think that Governor Rick Scott is on to something when he says that this might cause more hindrances and problems than it's actually going to solve.

And I think majority of Americans actually do support the idea with some kind of security on campus. Perhaps a security guard, somebody who is trained in that way specifically, who isn't worried about teaching day to day and looking after kids in those other ways.

We don't necessarily have a problem with security guards in shopping malls, out in the street. You know, it's not thought necessarily to be a scary thing. So I think maybe that's a better pathway for these governors and for the president to try to assess.

But you can see the problems that could come into play if you started encouraging teachers to arm themselves. Teachers should first and foremost be looking after the education and the safety of their students. And they shouldn't necessarily have to be worried about where the gun is in their drawer at any given moment of the day.

It would seem more reasonable to hire one person on campus to have that concern rather than to ask all teachers to do it. Also, you would never want to be in a situation where teachers felt pressured to bear arms and to take up a weapon or to defend their classroom because for some people, it's just not the right option. That's why the second amendment has that important choice involved.

If you want to arm yourself, you do have the opportunity legally to do so under the existing regulations and under the law. But most Americans choose not to. And I don't think we should put that pressure on them to do so.

CHURCH: Right. Of course, in this Florida school shooting, we saw someone who was armed, who was there to protect the students, who didn't go in. So that is an interesting point, no doubt we'll be part that of debate.

So the president has also indicated that he is open to comprehensive background checks. But he hasn't indicated what form that might take.

We talk about the latest CNN poll on tighter gun laws. That shows seven out of ten Americans support tougher background checks. So there is an area of compromise here. We are seeing some sort of bipartisan approach. But what form, or what type of background check would appeal to both parties in this instance? How far could it go?

ANDREWS: Well, this is what is deeply frustrating is that the U.S. already has some of the toughest regulations in place when it comes to buying a gun worldwide. We have very, very many and we also are supposed to in theory have universal background checks. The problem is that a lot of people slip through the cracks. And they do it for several reasons.

One is because some of the shooters don't have any prior convictions, and there is no red flag that has gone up that would suggest that they aren't able to buy a gun. In other situations; the shooter and in Texas who shot up the church, he actually did have prior convictions. He was found guilty of domestic abuse. But it hasn't been registered correctly. Had it been, he shouldn't have had access to that gun and he probably wouldn't be able to buy a firearms.

So I think there are two issues here. One is enhancing the systems that we already have and actually making sure that people have to abide by the rules that are already in place. And I think once we feel secure that that's actually happening, we can see where the genuine holes.

And as we say, most Americans have no problem with sensible gun reform, or background check reform even to make sure that people are being checked properly before they can purchase a weapon.

[03:15:04] CHURCH: All right. Well thank you, Kate Andrews for bringing your analysis to this. Of course, it is a debate that will continue. We'll see what comes of this meeting with the governors. And of course, we'll see what Congress decides in the end as well. A long way to go. Many thanks to you, though.

Well, next here on CNN Newsroom, the latest on what's supposed to be a ceasefire in Syria. We'll have a live report from the region. That's still to come.

Plus the search is intensifying for more than 100 missing Nigerian girls. Why their parents say they're doing what the government could not. We're back with that in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: A ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Saturday may have already failed in Syria. Activists say shelling and air strikes in eastern Ghouta have not stopped. There are also reports pro government forces are mounting a ground offensive.

This video from Saturday purportedly shows the aftermath of one of those strikes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 100 children have been killed in the area over the last week. These children survived but still have to live with the horrors of war.

[03:20:05] CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is tracking events in the region from Jordan. For the very latest, she joins me now live from Amman. Jomana, good to see you. The United Nations voted for that ceasefire over the weekend. But Syria ignored that and continued its bombardment in eastern Ghouta. So what impact has there been on the ground there for civilians?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Rosemary, that long-awaited resolution after days of bickering and a blame game at the U.N. Security Council seems to have changed nothing on the ground. No signs of a ceasefire.

By all accounts, Sunday was a day of escalation. We got reports of intense bombardment of different parts of eastern Ghouta with air strikes and artillery shelling. And also as you mentioned, activists on the ground describing what they say was a ground offensive by the regime trying to push into eastern Ghouta on several fronts which led to intense clashes.

We're also getting reports of a possible chlorine gas attack. This is coming from activists on the ground as well as medical groups that include the Syrian American Medical Society, SAMS, who say that one of the hospitals that they support in eastern Ghouta treated 16 patients, including 6 children who were, quote, "suffering symptoms indicative of exposure to chemical compounds."

The opposition's Damascus health director is also reporting that. And they say they believe it is exposure to toxic chlorine gas. Now at CNN, we cannot independently verify these claims.

Both sides in this conflict in the past have accused each other of using chlorine as a weapon. And it is civilians who continue to pay the heaviest price in this conflict.

We must warn you that some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH: Images that the world has seen time and time again out of Syria, another strike, another rescue of a bloody child whose name we nay never know. Eastern Ghouta has become a kill box. People here say they've never seen a week like this before. Activists have been trying to document what life, if one can call it that, is like for civilians here.

In underground shelters, they hope they will survive. It's a miserable existence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is no drinking water. We try our best to give children a little bit to drink. We eat once a day or we don't eat at all.

KARADSHEH: When the air strikes stop, the brave and desperate venture out.

"We've come up waiting here for the food delivery. We have no food left," this boy says. "We're waiting. If a round hits us, it's OK. We will die."

Aid groups say hundreds have lost their lives this past week. Thousands more wounded. A U.N. resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire is nothing more than ink on paper, activists say. People fear the worst is yet to come with reports of the regime and its allies launching a ground offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): we want a ceasefire so that people can get out and breathe, so that they can treat their children. No matter what we say, no one can imagine what it's like being in this situation.

KARADSHEH: And no one, it seems so far, can stop the horror for this population, trapped in a living nightmare.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH: And, rosemary, the Syrian regime has always said that it is going after terrorist groups in eastern Ghouta who they say are holding civilians there hostage.

On Sunday, the Syrian regime state news agency reported that more than 20 rockets and mortars targeted the Syrian capital Damascus. And it seems that it is civilians on both sides of this conflict that continue to see no signs of a ceasefire.

CHURCH: It is all simply horrifying. Jomana Karadsheh, many thanks to you for that report. Joining us from Amman, Jordan.

Well, Nigeria is intensifying its search for 110 girls. They have been missing ever since Boko Haram militants raided their school a week ago. Now the air force has fighter jet, helicopters, and surveillance planes conducting around-the-clock searches over northeast Nigeria.

After a week of confusing contradictory statements about the girls whereabouts the government says it's now on the right track to find the students and to prevent further attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAI MOHAMMED, NIGERIAN MINISTER OF INFORMATION: Henceforth, the police and the civil defense corps will assure that the oppressors struck in every school so they'll have deterrents to insurgence.

[03:25:07] Secondly, the security agencies are working to assure in the agenda that no stone will be left unturned in the determination to rescue these girls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And it is a story we will continue to follow here on CNN.

We'll take a very short break here. But still to come, there is outrage over so many missed warnings about the school gunman in Parkland, Florida. But the local sheriff is resisting calls to step aside. His interview with CNN, just ahead.

Plus, Israel's prime minister faces more pressure after another arrest in a graft probe. A live report from Jerusalem.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Joining us here from the United States and of course all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

A weekend ceasefire vote at the U.N. has apparently failed to stop air strikes in parts of Syria. A doctor in eastern Ghouta said Sunday there were more bombardments, including one that hit a maternity hospital. Medical sources also say some patients are showing symptoms of exposure to chlorine gas.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is calling on the U.S. to, quote, "Lower the threshold for talks with North Korea." The White House is again warning North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons. But there is no indication Pyongyang would agree to negotiate its nuclear program. [03:30:05] Florida's governor is ordering an investigation into the

response to the deadly high school shooting in Parkland on February 14. An armed deputy working as the school. Also at issue are a number of red flags raised about the gunman before the shooting took place. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel about them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: On November 30th, fewer than three months ago, your office received a call from a tipster explicitly saying that Cruz could be a, quote, school shooter in the making, accord0ing to notes released on that call, no report was even initiated.

At this point, sir, do you understand how the public seeing red flag after red flag after red flag, warning after warning after warning, they hear that your office didn't even initiate a report when they got a call saying that this guy could be a school shooter in the making? How could there not even be a report on this one?

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: Well, if that's accurate, Jake, there needed to be a report, and that is what we are looking into, that a report needed to be completed and needed to be forwarded to our either homeland security or violent crimes unit and they would have followed up on it --

TAPPER: That's from your notes. That's from notes released by your office. I'm not making this up. This is from Broward --

ISRAEL: No. And that's -- and that's what -- that the officer who handled that is on restrictive duty, and we are at an active internal investigation, and we are looking into it. I can't tell you -- I can't predict how an investigation is going but we -- I have exercised my due diligence. I've led this county proudly as I always have. We have restricted that deputy as we look into it.

TAPPER: In this case, you've listed 23 incidents before the shooting involving the shooter and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands to make sure that the school was protected, to make sure you are keeping an eye on him. Your deputy --

ISRAEL: Jake --

TAPPER: I don't understand how you can sit there and claim amazing leadership.

ISRAEL: Jake, 16 of those cases, our deputies did everything right. Our deputies have done amazing things. We've taken this -- in the five years I've been sheriff, we have taken the Broward Sheriff's Office to a new level. I work with some of the bravest people I've ever met.

One person, at this point, one person didn't do what he should have done. It's horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach that we have a deputy that didn't go in because I know if I was there, if I was on that wall, I would have been the first in along with so many other people.

TAPPER: I think there are a lot of people -I think there are a lot of people, sir, who think that there are a lot of mistakes other than that one deputy. The Broward County School Board entered into an agreement when you were sheriff in 2013 to pursue the, quote, least punitive means of discipline against students.

This policy encouraged warnings, consultations with parents and programs on conflict resolution instead of arresting students for crimes. Were there not incidents committed by this shooter as a student had this new policy not been in place that otherwise he would have been arrested for and not able to legally buy a gun?

ISRAEL: What you're referring to is the promise program and it's giving the school -- the school has the ability under certain circumstances not to call the police, not to get the police involved on misdemeanor offenses, and take care of it within the school. It's an excellent program. It's helping many, many people. What this program does is not put a person at 14, 15, 16 years old into the criminal justice system.

TAPPER: What if he should be in the criminal justice system? What if he does something violent to a student? What if he takes bullets to school? What if he takes knives to school? What if he threatens the lives of fellow students?

ISRAEL: Then he goes to jail. That's not --

TAPPER: That's not what happened. But that's not what happened with the shooter. There are teachers at the school had been told, if you see Cruz, come on campus with a backpack, let me know. Does that not indicate that there is something seriously awry with the promise program if these teachers are being told watch out for this kid, and you don't know about it?

ISRAEL: We don't know that that has anything to do with the promise program. I didn't hear about this until after the fact. I have heard about this information about a week ago. I do know about it. I don't know who the teacher was. It hasn't been corroborated. But that is nothing to do with the promise program.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: All right. We move now to a corruption scandal that keeps rocking the Israeli political establishment. Israeli police arrested and questioned

[03:35:00] an eighth suspect on Sunday. Investigators said earlier this month there was sufficient evidence to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He maintains he is innocent.

For more, CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now live from Jerusalem. So, Oren, the pressure is increasing on Prime Minister Netanyahu. How is he responding?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Netanyahu refuses to back down. In fact, in some of his more recent statements, he hasn't even mentioned the investigation, trying to play it off as business as usual, especially now or including now as the investigation is growing.

And the case we're referring to specifically here is what is known as case 4,000. This looks at the relationship between the Ministry of Communications and Israeli telecom firm Bezeq while Netanyahu was himself the minister of communications. Seven suspects have already been arrested.

One of those, one of those closest to Netanyahu in fact has already turned state's witness in this case. And now an eighth suspect arrested, a man known as Eli Kamir. It is worth pointing out in this case that he had already been arrested in a different investigation, he was released there and rearrested here. So, all of these investigations tying together.

It's also important to note that Netanyahu himself is not a suspect in this investigation and refuses, as I've said, to back down here. He is still holding strong. And at the moment, he has coalition support. Rosemary?

CHURCH: So, Oren, of course, how long can Netanyahu hang on politically?

LIEBERMANN: In the end, it's all a question of that coalition support. His key coalition partners, that is the political parties that stand him up are standing by his side right now and saying, look, we're going to wait for the attorney general to make a decision in this case on whether or not to indict the prime minister, and then we'll see where things go from there. That in and of itself is months away. So Netanyahu is not at the moment under pressure.

It's also a question of political pressure or rather public pressure. How does the public view this? And there the sort of best analogy to make is look at the U.S. as President Donald Trump is under investigation.

His supporters have rallied behind him, agreeing with him as he decries it as a witch hunt. And it's very much the same here in Israel. Netanyahu supporters looking at these ongoing and growing investigations and similarly viewing it as a witch hunt there.

CHURCH: All right. Oren Liebermann joining us live from Jerusalem where it is nearly 10:40 in the morning. We thank you very much.

Well, China's president is just finishing up his first term, but a power play could keep him in office for years to come. We'll explain when we come back with a live report.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. China's ruling Communist Party wants to drastically change the country's constitution. They have proposed removing presidential term limits. That would pave the way for the president, Xi Jinping, to stay in office indefinitely. And Matt Rivers is following the story, and he joins us now live from Beijing. So Matt, how is this going to work? And what is behind this push to drop presidential term limits in China and give Xi Jinping an indefinite term in office?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a proposal made by the central committee in the Communist Party and it's officially going to get voted on in early March during the National People's Congress where delegates from around the country convene in Beijing.

But make no mistake about it. They are going to vote for this. These presidential term limits not only for the president but for the vice president will be lifted. Rosemary, if you're looking for a reasoning behind this, it is Xi Jinping wanting to set himself up to stay in power, not only as the head of state, but also as the more powerful position of the head of the Communist Party in China.

By doing so, by combining both of those things, he is giving himself a chance to completely and totally guide China's future for years and decades to come. And the image, the vision that he sees fit.

CHURCH: And, Matt, one of Xi Jinping's initiatives has been to elevate sports in China. And now all the attention is on the next Winter Games in Beijing, where preparations are already underway. How is it all going?

RIVERS: Yes, well, there is one good thing, I guess, you could say about ruling like an authoritarian dictator is that Xi Jinping can do what he wants to do. And he has pushed in a major way for sports industry development, not only with soccer and football, but also now with winter sports ahead of the 2022 Olympics.

Yes, he can build hotels and venues very easily, but the bigger challenge for the Chinese government is getting people here in China to care about winter sports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS (voice-over): Twelve million Chinese people skied in 2017, so says a widely cited ski industry report. It might sound like a lot, but that's less than one percent of the country's total population. Like most winter sports here, skiing is growing fast, but so far lacks mass appeal, which is why this might seem surprising.

Beijing will host the next Winter Olympics in 2022 in a country with little winter sports tradition, but lots of Olympic experience. In 2008, China put on a show at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Come 2022, you'll see some of those same venues retrofitted for the cold events. Three different areas host it all, not without their problems. Start in mountainous (INAUDIBLE) where the freestyle stuff kicks off; ski halfpipe, ski moguls.

(on camera): To do all that though, you need snow. And nearly all of it on this mountain is made by machines. But organizers say there is plenty of fake snow to go around. So the focus is on building out competition sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to have everything ready by 2020.

RIVERS (voice-over): Right. And you're on pace for that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're absolutely on pace for that, yes.

RIVERS (voice-over): Speaking of pace, a lot of hotels and Olympic villages still need to be built. Chinese officials say they're on target too, not to mention this $9.2 billion railway designed to cut travel time between venues.

(on camera): Even though it might not look like it at the moment, officials are promising that it will be done on time.

(voice-over): A tougher task, getting ordinary Chinese people to truly care about the games.

MARK DREYER, CHINA SPORTS EXPERT: So the challenge has to be to expand that winter sports base.

RIVERS (voice-over): The government is trying, though. According to state media, a series of state-run initiatives will try to create a $160 billion winter sports industry by 2025 by getting 300 million people on skis and skates. The sense that the games will be a hit here, though, faces legitimate skepticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because China is a very beginner ski market.

RIVERS (voice-over): The skiers and skaters and (INAUDIBLE) and curlers will be here in just four years. Whether lots of Chinese people are engaged in the same sports by then is an open question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: Rosemary, I can tell you the Winter Olympics marketing

[03:45:00] push is on here in China. It's all over state TV. I saw a marketing ad in a public bathroom earlier today for the Winter Olympics. And of course no Winter Games would be complete of course without overpriced merchandise.

This is a Beijing 2022 thermos. It cost way too much money, but we did take to it the mountain because it might not ski that much up there, but -- snow that much up there, but it is cold. I can tell you that.

CHURCH: Absolutely. We have four years of that, so enjoy.

(LAUGHTER)

CHURCH: Matt Rivers.

RIVERS: Yes, looking forward to it. It should be great.

CHURCH: A live report there from Matt Rivers in Beijing. Thanks so very much. While prep goes on there in Beijing, Pyeongchang bids farewell in a spectacular celebration. We will look back at the best moments from the 2018 Winter Games. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: It has been a bittersweet farewell to the 2018 Winter Games. Over two weeks, more than 3,000 athletes from 92 countries competed for 102 gold medals. And sports and diplomacy went hand in hand to try to help thaw relations between North and South Korea. Our team in Pyeongchang looked back at their favorite moments from the games.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[03:50:00] CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: You know, I was at figure skating most of the Olympics. And I saw so much falling and thrills and spills from the Americans that I just had to go to the women's ice hockey gold medal game. That was U.S. and Canada. Of course one of the great rivalries in sport, not just the Olympics, but of all of sport.

And U.S. hadn't won a gold medal in 20 years. The Canadians kept winning time after time after time. And wouldn't you know the game lived up to its hype, lived up to its billing (ph). It's the great moment in sports when you expect it's going to be great and it's even better than you hoped.

And that game of course went to overtime and then went to the shoot- out. You had to have another shoot-out because they were so closely matched. And the U.S. pulls it off, a dramatic gold, the dramatic save by Maddie Rooney. It was just I thought one of the great moments of these games. For me it was the best moment of these games.

When you think about it, it occurred exactly on the 38th anniversary of the miracle on ice, the greatest moment in U.S. men's hockey. So you have the greatest moment in U.S. women's hockey occurring 38 years to the day after the finest most historic moment in men's hockey. And one of the great moments in sports, that miracle on ice.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS PRESENTER: To be there when the first unified Korea hockey team took to the ice. I remember looking at Christine and saying, this is history. It really was incredible, the atmosphere and the buildup. We had the families turning up with their children, carrying the two flags, having all those photographs on the steps with not only the South Korean flag, but also the unified flag.

It's not every day you have an early round women's ice hockey match at the Olympics, and you have a top level presidential delegation, not only from South Korea, but also the North as well. And then there were the cheerleaders. It was really our first experience of that North Korean cheer squad, which are unlike anything I've ever seen at any sporting event before and probably will do ever again.

And you've got a real sense talking not only to the players that we have spoken to while we've been here, and also to their families that while they haven't necessarily agreed with the political implications of what has happened, they have understood the bigger picture of what has been playing out here at the Olympics.

And you wonder how we will reflect on it, maybe five years, in 20 years' time, whether it is something that will just have had an impact here for one Olympic games or how it will play into the much, much bigger political picture.

COY WIRE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: At 17 years old, Chloe Kim became the youngest woman ever to win gold on snow in the Olympic games. Her dad emigrated from South Korea with just $800 in his pocket. So you can imagine the feeling of her parents and for Chloe when she won gold in this country.

I was right there with her parents when they celebrated their daughter's victory. And I actually turned into a temporary bodyguard for Chloe's mom, escorting her all the way over to be there to see Chloe.

And I saw the first hug, hugging their daughter as an Olympic champion for the first time. The tears were flowing. And I loved being right there to snap a picture of her father sipping a cold one after his daughter just won the gold. Epic.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Two skiing superstars going head to head for the first and last time at the Winter Olympics has the potential for blockbuster drama. In the end, though, the wind picked up, which means that Mikaela Shiffrin didn't have the chance to go for five gold medals, and we didn't have the chance to see these two compete against each other three times.

In the end, it was only once. But my goodness, it was dramatic. Lindsey Vonn missing out on a chance of going for another gold medal, saying this is her last Olympic Games. But, you never know with her. She is one of the fiercest competitors in sport. As for Mikaela Shiffrin, well, bitter, bitter disappointment for her.

You know, I went up to her after she had finished her last race and gave her a hug. And I could just feel it and sense it. But, you know, she is just 22 years of age. She has won two medals here. She has now got three in total. I think she'll be going for five again in Beijing. It's just that this time she probably won't say it out loud.

WIRE: Not only did I get to see figure skating for the first time in person, I got to see what some are calling the greatest figure skater of all time, 23-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan. I've seen Tom Brady in person. I've seen Lebron James in person. And none of them receive the fan passionate adulation that Hanyu receives.

People are crying. It's like he is Justin Bieber or Michael Jackson out there performing. Not just your ordinary athlete. And then to get nearly trampled by people trying to throw Winnie the Poohs out on to the ice, I'll remember that forever.

The thing I'll love most about the Olympics though, people from all over the planet from different ethnicities and cultures and backgrounds coming together to do that which they love. Breaking down barriers. It is the power of sport. Our world needs a lot more of that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Yes, it does. And you may remember hearing about Tonga's

[03:55:00] Pita Taufatofua, the oiled-up shirtless flag bearer at the Olympics. We asked him about "My Freedom Day," a student-led day of action against modern day slavery, and what freedom means to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PITA TAUFATOFUA, TONGAN TAEKWONDO PRACTITIONER AND SKIER: Freedom means the ability to have choices in your life that can, you know, influence you and not have those choices impact other people's own freedom or their own choices. So I think it's really important with freedom that people have this ability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: So what does freedom mean to you? We want you to share your story on social media using the hash tag My Freedom Day. Then join CNN for special coverage leading up to and on My Freedom Day on March 14th. Make sure you're a part of that.

And thank you so much for your company this hour on "CNN Newsroom." I'm Rosemary Church. For those of you in the United States, "Early Start" is next. And for the rest of our viewers, stay tuned for "CNN Newsroom" with Max Foster. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.